Enhancing and Igniting Talent Development Initiatives: Research to determine effectiveness

Publication Details

This report presents the findings from research involving five Talent Development Initiatives for improving outcomes for gifted and talented students or their teachers. The purpose of the research was to consider how well the objectives of each participating initiative had been achieved, how the initiative contributed to improved outcomes for gifted and talented learners or their teachers, and how planning to continue to meet the learners’ needs after 2008 had been considered.

Author(s): Tracy Riley and Roger Moltzen, Massey University. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: March 2010

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Section 1: Introduction

The Talent Development Initiatives (TDIs) arose from recommendations by the Minister of Education's Working Party on Gifted Education to "support innovation and special developments in gifted education" (2001, p. 26). The Working Party recommendation was for funding to be made available for a three-year period for programmes designed both within schools and by out-of-school providers. The overall purpose in the TDIs, as proposed by the Working Party, was to provide seed funding for school-based innovative and pilot projects that would support the development of new approaches in gifted and talented education, improving or enhancing provisions for students. The Working Party acknowledged the "many valuable initiatives" (2001, p. 27) in gifted and talented education that were provided by outside agencies, also recommending funding for those programmes otherwise not eligible for Ministry of Education support.

In 2002, this recommendation was endorsed by the Minister of Education in the Government's Initiatives for Gifted and Talented Learners. As part of the Government's overall strategy to improve outcomes for gifted and talented students, the funding pool was open to both schools and community-based or out-of-school providers, with the expectation that projects be evaluated and reported:

Information from these reports will add to our knowledge about effective programmes for gifted and talented learners. Schools will then have a greater knowledge base to draw on when developing their programmes (Ministry of Education, 2002, p. 2).

The purpose of the funding pool, as outlined by the Ministry of Education, was to support:

  • the development of innovative approaches in gifted education that result in improved outcomes for gifted and talented students;
  • research into the impact innovative approaches have on learning and teaching; and
  • sharing of knowledge, understanding, and models of effective practice with others in the education sector (2006, no page given).

Between 2003 and 2005, seventeen TDIs were funded for a range of initiatives. These included a wide diversity of programme structures including school clusters, cross-sector groups, one day schools, and online programmes. Each TDI was expected to undertake internal evaluations, submit regular milestone reports (both written and oral), participate in annual hui, and liaise with the Ministry's senior adviser in gifted and talented education and TDI coordinator. Each TDI was appointed a mentor, had access to an online resource for support, and their 'story' was published on the te kete ipurangi website. There was no external research component in the first round of funding.

In 2005, a second funding round was initiated and twenty-one programmes were funded for 2006 to 2008. The key focus areas for selection of these programmes included those targeting specific groups of gifted students (e.g., underachieving gifted students, Māori and Pasifika), providing classroom-based opportunities, enhancing home-school partnerships, meeting the social and emotional needs of gifted and talented students, and targeting low-decile or rural schools. Again, a range of diverse programmes was funded, using different programme structures, targeting different groups of students and their teachers, and provided by both schools and external agencies.

In the second funding round there were two different types of programmes: Enhance and Ignite. The five Enhance TDIs were programmes which were previously funded, but were "entering an innovative phase of an existing programme" (Ministry of Education, 2006, no page given). The remaining sixteen Ignite TDIs were 'new' programmes, "setting out on a new path or starting new external/internal networks and relationships" (Ministry of Education, 2006, no page given). For this round of funding, TDIs adhered to the aforementioned processes of evaluation, reporting, networking though hui, and liaising with Ministry officials; however, the mentoring and online resource supports were removed. No provision was made for the dissemination or sharing of their stories, though there was encouragement to do so.

In this second round of TDI funding, the Ministry of Education called for proposals for an external evaluation of TDIs, and it is that evaluation reported here. This evaluation was undertaken with three Ignite TDIs designed for students: Te Manu Aute (TMA), New Zealand Marine Studies (NZMSC), and Rutherford College. An action research, team-based approach was employed for these programme evaluations. Two Enhance TDIs for professional development were also evaluated, using a case study approach led by one researcher: GiftNet (Gifted Kids Programme) and The Gifted Education Centre (formerly the George Parkyn Centre). The evaluations were primarily formative, with some summative elements.

The purposes in the evaluation of each of these five distinct programmes were:

  • To determine how providers design, implement, maintain, and evaluate programmes for gifted and talented students, or their teachers.
  • To determine how providers structure relevant and engaging learning and growth opportunities for gifted and talented students, or their teachers, as evidenced in the achievement of programme objectives; improved outcomes for students, or their teachers; impact upon key stakeholders; and planning for sustainability.
  • To determine how, and what, formative feedback effects the development, implementation, maintenance, and evaluation of programmes for gifted and talented students, or their teachers, by using an action research approach to evaluation (for Ignite TDIs).

As these show, the purpose in evaluating five programmes was not to compare or contrast, but to provide a rich account of their evolution over three years and its impact upon key stakeholders. As the Request for Proposals stated, it was important that "… the stories of groups' different 'journeys' … be captured and presented in such a way that elements of effective curriculum differentiation and organisational change be clearly identified and adapted by other schools" (2005, p. 2). Further to this, as was intended by the TDI purposes, the evaluation aims to provide information to the Ministry of Education, and in fact, all advocates for gifted and talented students, about improving outcomes in the context of the core principles outlined in the 2002 policy initiatives (Ministry of Education, 2002).

Therefore, while specific processes, unique to each programme's evaluation, were developed, the overall aim was two-fold:

  1. To provide generalisations regarding broad themes related to how well the objectives were achieved in relation to each programme's intentions, the TDI funding purposes, and the Ministry's core principles; outcomes for students and stakeholders; processes of programme development, implementation, and evaluation; and sustainability.
  2. To consider models of programme evaluation for gifted and talented education, including the adoption of a participatory action research model.

This section has provided a background to the TDIs and this evaluation's purposes. The remainder of the report is organised as follows:

The Evaluation of Gifted and Talented Programmes provides a brief overview of the literature in the field, highlighting the need for programme evaluations in New Zealand.

Enhancing and Igniting Talent Development Initiatives provides a detailed account of the research processes, including the rationale for using different methodologies and an explanation of those. The limitations of this approach are also discussed.

Ignite Evaluations provides the evaluations for three programmes designed for students, presented as case studies and including the specific purposes, research cycles, data collection methods, analysis, and results. This section also includes a synthesis of results across the programmes where generalisations arose.

Enhance Evaluations provides the evaluations for two professional development programmes, presented as case studies and including the specific purposes, research cycles, data collection methods, analysis, and results. This section also includes a synthesis of results across the programmes where generalisations arose.

Overall Conclusions, Limitations, and Recommendations provides a synthesis of the conclusions of this evaluation, across all programmes and where generalisations can be made in regards to the evaluation purposes, making recommendations for practice and research. This is set against the backdrop of the limitations of this evaluation.